Crowdsourcing The Essentials: Urban Fantasy

Just as buildings are made of bricks and last night’s dinner was made of donuts and whiskey, the INTERNET IS MADE OF LISTS. And one of the lists I see periodically pop up like a gopher at the hole is the one where the writer curates her list of the essential reads in a particular genre.

And I thought, well, I can do that.

Except, man, I’m totally lazy.

So, I thought, for fun, I’ll crowdsource it. And as it turns out, I have a blog –, which unfortunately this week was shut down by the NSA for hiding Edward Snowden’s cat videos. So, here I am at my second blog, giving it a go.

This’ll be a series, I think, where I drop in and ask this question about certain essential genre and subgenre (and other as-yet-unseen categorizations and classifications) reads. I’ll tally the top ten by the next post and it’ll all start all over again. Like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill. But more fun. Or something. YOUR FACE IS FULL OF SHUT UP.

So, today, since I’ve got a couple books loosely defined as urban fantasy (ahem, ahem, cough, cough, Blue Blazes, out now), I thought that’s a good place to start.

As such, here’s your task:

In the comments, list your top three essential urban fantasy reads.

Name of book and author of book.

You can just give titles or talk about the books or use rare artisanal Korean emoticons to express your pleasure. I trust your judgment.

Then, next Monday, I’ll list the ten top books that appeared.

So: top three urban fantasy reads.

Let us begin.


  • 1. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. His short stories don’t get as much credit as his novels, but they are just as, if not more, stylized. A lot of them are also hyper-strange.
    2. Anything by Charles de Lint
    3. The Child Thief by Brom. A lot of it takes place in “Neverland,” but the main action is bookended by some incredible sequences in the present. Several of the characters are also from the “real” world.

  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, my favorite being Dead Beat – book 7.
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
    Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison.

    Most of everyone else’s list is still in my TBR pile.

  • I’m focusing on the word “essential” in the requirements so this doesn’t get out of hand:

    1. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
    2. Kate Daniels series – Ilona Andrews
    3. October Daye series – Seanan McGuire

    Some honourable mentions:
    Iron Druid series – Kevin Hearne
    Mercy Thompson/Alpha & Omega – Patricia Briggs
    Written in Red – Anne Bishop

  • 1. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels, ALL OF THEM, yeah I’m counting all those as one, WHAT OF IT?!
    2. C.E. Murphy’s Urban Shaman series, all of THOSE OOOH LOOK I DID IT AGAIN
    3. Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series THREE TIMES oooooh REBEL

    I have to concur re: Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series, and would add also as further addenda Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series and OH GOD I CAN’T STOP WHY MUST YOU LIMIT ME CHUCK AAAAAUUUUGH

  • 1) The Dresden Files. I came in WAY late and I cannot believe I wasn’t reading them earlier. My God, I never thought I’d ever have such a crush on a wizard. No offense, Mr. Potter.
    2) The first nine Anita Blake novels. I pretend that Anita just died at the end of Obsidian Butterfly because the rest of the series is complete and utter shit, and the author is a word I shall not repeat in front of the children. Begins with a c.
    3) American Gods by Neil Gaiman & Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Both are tied for third place. Maybe they’ll have a fight to the death with rubber chickens or something and one will emerge victorious.

    Thanks for making this post. I’ve been tearing through the Dresden Files so I need new material to read, especially since I’ll be breaking into the genre myself in a couple weeks. You rock, Wendig. And commentators. <3

  • Only three? You’re making this tough…ok I’m not good w/limits so here are mine for more current: Kevin Hearne HOUNDED, Ilona Andrews MAGIC BITES, and Jim Butcher STORM FRONT.
    And to show off my older status: Piers Anthony ON A PALE HORSE should be n there…

  • Everything that Nalo Hopkinson ever wrote, for sure. Either War for the Oaks or Bone Dance by Emma Bull, and China Mieville’s King Rat or The City & The City. Because Mr Urban Spaceman, above, has reminded me of their awesomeness, I will second his call for Tad Williams’ Otherland books, although they’re almost more cyberpunk/SF than UF (as is, I guess, Bull’s Bone Dance). Any of the Bordertown books, especially the early ones. *wanders off to look at bookcases* *realizes that counting to three is hard*

  • I’m not as into urban fantasy as I used to be. I got burned out pretty bad on it. There’s been but one series which has brought me back to the genre at all. Thus, do I cast my vote for…

    Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey.

  • 1. The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
    2. The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
    3. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
    These are the 3 series I always recommend friends who want to start reading UF.

    • My favorite books in those series:
      Magic Strikes- #3 in Kate Daniels
      Hounded- #1 in Iron Druid Chronicles
      Silver Bourne- #5 in Mercy Thompson
      Can I give an honorable mention to Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan? It was excellent.

      If we could vote standalones separate from series, my favorite UF standalones would be:
      1. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
      2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

  • Oh good, everyone is cheating and listing whole series instead of just one book. That makes things so much easier. Picking three series was hard enough.

    Easier for us anyway. Not so much for you for composing a list and all. ;-)

    1) I suppose I must also throw my hat into the ring for Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I wouldn’t have been able to pick just one of those anyway.
    2) The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire is also wonderful.
    3) I love anything by Lilith Saintcrow, but for the purposes of this list I guess I’ll go with the Jill Kismet series.

    Honorable mentions to the Hollows series by Kim Harrison, the Weather Wardens series by Rachel Caine, the Shifters series by Rachel Vincent, and the Alex Craft series by Kalayna Price.

    So that’s something like… 60 books to get someone started. Exactly what you were looking for in a top three must reads, right?

  • Blood series (Vicki Nelson) – Tanya Huff
    War for the Oaks – Emma Bull
    October Daye series – Seanan McGuire

  • American Gods – Neil Gaiman
    Kate Daniels series – Ilona Andrews
    Dresden Files – Jim Butcher

    If it wasn’t your list, Blackbirds and Mockingbird would be on there too. :) But I figure you know those already!

  • King Rat by China Miéville

    That’s my only data point, as I haven’t read much fantasy — urban or otherwise. Great book, BTW. I have his The City & The City in my to-be-read stack.

  • Does Monster by A. Lee Martinez count as urban fantasy or is it too silly?

    I’m not really an urban fantasy fan, I like my fantasy to be a bit more out there. Or animal fantasy/allegorical.

  • YA urban fantasy novels
    The Gates, John Connolly
    The Thief of Always, Clive Barker
    Juniper Berry, M.P. Kozlowsky

  • If only three mine are all begun in England.
    3: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, Myfanwy Thomas is one of the best female characters I have come across.
    2: The Laundry Files books by Charles Stross, cthulhu, British spies, and paper work. Some of the most fun you can have 4 novels, with a new one next year and 2 short stories with another coming, all amazing.
    1: A comic series wrongly canceled. John Constantine Hellblazer, not the piece of shit Constantine. 300 issues written by some of the best English comics writers, who from 1988 till this year along with some Swamp Thing issues where he originally appeared has aged in real time and would have been 60 this year before the powers that be at DC decided needed to die so he could live as a younger, shitter character in the main universe. A magican,conman, ladies man, and a complete and total bastard most of the time and who predates most of the current crop of magicans in fiction.

  • So Dresden Files and anything by Neil Gaiman is obviously covered so I’ll mention some others.

    Happy to see Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy get a mention in the comments (‘White Cat’ is No 1) as well as ‘Sunshine’ by Robin McKinley (There is a lot of baking going on, which I sometimes skipped probably because I hate cooking, but it was so cool to have Vampires scary and mysterious again instead of sparkly and boring). The way these two authors blended the real world with the fantastic was nicely done. I also recommend Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.

    Thanks to everyone for nominating their favs. I have some reading to do.

  • 1. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere
    2. Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series
    3. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

    I could list many more (I spent ten minutes in mental debate over Sunshine vs. the Iron Druid Chronicles), but those are the ones I love and admire most. My to-read list is about to get much longer!

  • 1. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. A. Ma. Zing.
    2. Both The Scar and Perdido Street Station by China Mieville.
    3. The Blue Blazes. Sorry, it’s got to be on the list, I’m not trying to suck up, really!

  • War for the Oaks by Emma Bull – for the general genre template.

    Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake #1) by Laurel K. Hamilton – for shaping what a big part of the genre became. Say what you want about the later ones, the impact of the early ones was huge.

    Cast in Shadow (Chronicles of Elantra #1) by Michelle Sagara – for what the genre could be, if its allowed the widest definition possible.

  • 1. The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Tad Williams (Bobby Dollar series)
    2. Sandman Slim, Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim series)
    3. Storm Front, Jim Butcher (Dresden Files series)

    Seconding very-honorable-already-mentioneds: Williams (Otherland series, The War of the Flowers); Gaiman (Neverwhere, American Gods); Mieville (Perdido Street Station, The City and the City); Anthony (On A Pale Horse, Immortality series); Barker (Weaveworld); Wendig (You Know).

  • For me I would say
    Changes – Jim Butcher (Although for the full effect the earlier books need to be read)
    The Apocalypse Codex – Charles Stross (Likewise)
    Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US) – Ben Aaronovitch

  • Ok out of the books I have read here are my three choices…. In terms of long series I’m choosing an individual book just to make it harder for myself

    1. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher…. Its an early book so his writing style is still developing but this is an excellent example of an early UF novel.

    2. Sixty One. nails by Mark Shevdon… Pulls a lot of its details from obscure British history and has a very different tone then Jim Butchers private eye stories.

    3. Though I want to name one of your books and I think they are excellent examples of noir pulp UF and as good as this one I think more people need to read Stephen Blackmoore’s City of the Lost… Reminds me of Blue Blazes and would make a great double feature with it…

  • I’d say the top three essentials for me would be Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld; Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden & Outcast Season (technically in the world and Outcast Season is a spin off – if made to choose I’d pick Weather Warden) and Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series.

  • 1. Dresden files, though it hardly needs to be said by now. Every day and twice on Sunday.
    2. Simon Green’s Nightside, home of the best supporting cast in the ever.
    3. CE Murphy’s Urban Shaman series.

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